Interview | Qwerty Mick on his Debut EP
Qwerty Mick, whose remarkable debut EP If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now was released last month, is an up-and-coming, enigmatic Irish singer-songwriter. First reaching public consciousness in 2020 with his debut single, ‘Eternal Optimist’, the multi-instrumentalist serves poetic witticisms against a backdrop of hazy, lo-fi bedroom pop, marked with deceptively intricate, jazzy guitar riffs and shuffling rhythms, via an eccentric and distinctive sprechgesang vocal style.
Ahead of our review of the debut EP, we asked Qwerty Mick a few questions.
Tell us about yourself—when did you start playing music and where did your moniker come from?
My music playing traces all the way back to when an older brother of mine got a Guitar Hero World Tour bundle for Christmas. There’s not really any other musicians in my family, so these plastic guitar-shaped controllers were my gateway into being enamoured with instruments. I tried an actual electric guitar soon after, and was appalled to find out my Guitar Hero degree didn’t qualify me to play it fluently. I was impatient, even for a 9-year-old. But then I realised the drums played the exact same as guitar hero drums, and for my 10th birthday my parents kindly got me a drum kit. Since then, I haven’t slowed down.
The name Qwerty Mick was an evolution from an old moniker of mine. I’d released ‘Eternal Optimist’ back in 2020 under the name Durty Mick, which sounds funny to say now. Durty Mick began when I first started recording music back in secondary school, and I thought the name suited how DIY it was, rough around the edges sort of. Looking back, I’d say I chose the name almost as a defence mechanism, to make sure the people in school knew I didn’t take myself too seriously if they didn’t like it. Before the release of the EP though, I made the decision to start taking music and myself more serious. After about two months of trying to think of a new name, Qwerty Mick was the only one my mates and I liked. It maintained any nostalgia we had of Durty Mick.
If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now is a humorously obvious statement but an interesting name for your EP. What inspired it?
There used to be an old advertising campaign that consisted of billboards strategically placed on the roads to commuter towns that read “If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now”. People who were on their long commutes home from work in the city would see these billboards, trying to sell them expensive homes close to the city. When I was writing the EP, I was in my first year of college commuting 3+ hours a day and it’s fairly miserable. But it also served well as a metaphor for how I was feeling disconnected from most things, be it from myself, from relationships or from home. So it became about learning to feel at home within oneself again as well.
‘Eternal Optimist’ and ‘Google Your Symptoms’ were released as singles prior to the release of the EP. What inspired the writing of these songs?
‘Eternal Optimist’ is basically about the fear of getting pied after you’ve been pied before. Putting up barriers from people becomes a really attractive, easy option, and at points it’s even like “What’s the need? I can be content on my own”. It doesn’t work like that of course, because relating to people is one of our most basic needs. The song’s about taking rejection too personally maybe, because these knocks to the ego can be really necessary sometimes. And not getting over that fear will hold you back way more in the long term.
Then ‘Google Your Symptoms’ is a song about political anxiety. I found being engaged with the 2020 General Election and its main issues led to so much more stress and anxiety than when I just passively engaged. Going on Twitter at the time of the election induced the exact same feeling as googling your symptoms. Dread.
There was an almost two-year gap between the release of ‘Eternal Optimist’ and ‘Google Your Symptoms’. Was this a result of the global pandemic? How has the pandemic affected your development as a songwriter?
Yeah, the pandemic definitely had an impact on it, probably in other ways that I’ll never realise too. Everything had been put on halt, especially the music scene, so there was no urgency to release anything. Realistically, I should’ve had the singles and the EP all out into the world back in 2020. Only now, in the past month since releasing it, do I understand how it would’ve benefited working on new music. Having everything out, and not having it as something to look forward to, or to do later, I’ve been free to completely focus on new work.
The past month has been the best creating music has ever gone for me, and I wonder if I had been urgent to release it back in 2020, would I have hit this stride sooner. But maybe the pandemic wouldn’t have allowed it. It’s hard to know. The main thing is I’m pushing forward now.
Your music has been compared to the likes of Mac DeMarco, King Krule, and Alex G. How does this sit with you?
It sits well. Each of them have definitely influenced me, for different reasons and in different stages of my life. King Krule has probably been the single biggest inspiration for me musically. I remember hearing ‘Out Getting Ribs’ for the first time in 2015 and being so absorbed by those opening jazz chords that I decided to learn the guitar. I had tried to learn guitar previously, but practising the staples that everyone tells you you should learn first like ‘Wonderwall’ or ‘A Horse with No Name’ didn’t interest me at all, so I dropped the guitar as quickly as I had picked it up. Another example of my impatience once again.
But this time was so different, and because I was so intrigued with the composition of this song, I spent literal months learning this, and only this, despite it being a pretty advanced chune to master. By the end of two or so months, I could play this difficult song from start to finish fluently, but had no idea how to play the most basic of guitar chords. The emotion behind his chords resonated with me enough to keep me hooked on guitar, and now it’s my most beloved expression. It feels like King Krule taught me how to play guitar almost. Mac DeMarco and Alex G definitely inspired me too, but more so in terms of home recording and DIY aspects.
Have you made any plans to play live? If so, when?
That’s the next step, definitely. The songs from the project I’m working on at the moment have been written with live performance in mind. They’re engaging, energetic, and more emotional. People want to ‘view the body’ as Lou Reed put it, so these songs will be more of a show. The tracks from If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now weren’t written with live performance in mind at all, so songs like ‘What a Kip’, which layers about nine guitars on top of each other but has no bass or percussion, they were crafted to be experienced at home, and obviously without the foresight for how they’d be performed in a live setting. Two of my best mates have been enlisted to help perform these songs once they’re ready, so Qwerty Mick could be performing as early as the end of the summer.
Who banned you from the aux cord and why?
The aux cord ban is still ongoing. Many have banned me, and many more will. There was a phase I went through that lasted for all of 2021 where no matter what the setting or vibe was, whether it was at a party, in the workplace, back of the taxi, it didn’t matter—I’d be throwing on Prefab Sprout—‘The King of Rock ‘N Roll’. Other people get sick of it, but I don’t. There’s heaps more Qwerty Mick aux staples that get the same treatment.
(Author note: ‘The King of Rock ‘N Roll’ is legitimately one of my least favourite songs of all time. Your aux cord ban is totally justified.)
What can we expect from you next?
Improvement. In every facet of music making. There’s some really exciting, unique, and catchy music on the way.
If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now is available to purchase and stream in all the usual places.